How to entice more businesses and industry to the Kenai Peninsula Borough is the million-dollar question, said assembly District 7 candidate Doug Ruzicka of Anchor Point.
Attempts have been made, he said, but he can't see where anyone's met with serious success, other than in the oil and gas industry.
"It's tough to bring in new industry because we are far away from markets," he said. "I think we need to strengthen the businesses we have here now as best we can."
Cutting taxes is one way to do that, Ruzicka said.
"I am a strong believer that if you reduce taxes, you increase the possibility of businesses making capital investments here. That makes for a strong small-business base and better tax base for the borough."
The assembly had the chance to lower the property tax mill rate when it was completing the latest budget in June, but chose not to.
"They raised spending to meet anticipated revenue," Ruzicka said. "That probably should not have happened."
Actually, the assembly did lower the overall tax by a half mill, but for residents outside cities, that half mill was shifted to the road service area.
The borough is facing the possibility of statewide taxes, either a sales tax or an income tax, or a tap on the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.
"Any tax relief (at the borough level) will be a big help," he said.
Ruzicka, 46, is a small-business owner himself and operates a sled-dog guiding service called MushHusky. He has lived in Alaska for 10 years and serves as treasurer of the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce. He also serves on the Anchor Point Advisory Planning Commission. He and his wife, Debbie, have five children.
If state lawmakers propose a sales tax -- a distinct possibility in the next Legislature -- the borough should oppose it, Ruzicka said.
"I don't think the need is there yet to tax us at the state level," he said.
Ruzicka said he isn't the kind of conservative who believes things will work if you just cut the budget. But he does believe the budget process could be refined.
The Legislature, he said, should be able to make "surgical cuts," a kind of line-item veto that would not be subject to a veto by the governor or department heads. Once lawmakers get a handle on spending, they can better determine if a tax is needed, he said.
"I'm not anti-tax. I'm just anti-unnecessary tax," he said.
Ruzicka said the borough has found some creative ways to fund education outside the cap, and the assembly should expect the borough Board of Education to come looking for more help.
He said waste management is a growing problem and must be dealt with.
On roads, Ruzicka said the new subdivision roads standards embodied in a controversial ordinance introduced by assembly member Milli Martin, Diamond Ridge-Seldovia, put too great a burden on land developers. He said he would not have supported it and called it premature.
He said he has no particular beef with incumbent Paul Fischer, but believes change can be good even where people find the status quo satisfactory.
"I think I can be an energetic assemblyman," he said. "I could get a lot of things done."
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